Geox-TMC manager Mauro Gianetti is confident of keeping Vuelta a España winner Juan José Cobo in his team for 2012 despite doubts about the long-term future of the team and its chances of obtaining a place in the WorldTour for next season.
Gianetti knows how to survive in cycling better than most. He weathered the storm after Riccardo Riccò and Leonard Piepoli tested positive for CERA at the 2008 Tour de France and sponsor Saunier Duval pulled out. He operated on a tiny budget but kept the team afloat and convinced Geox to sponsor his team last summer.
Geox-TMC has only won five races this year but Gianetti pulled off a season-saving success by winning the Vuelta with Cobo. He apparently has a sponsorship contract with the Geox company for 2012 and is convinced Cobo will not be lured away to a major WorldTour team because he is very close to the team's directeur sportif Joxean Matxin, who helped him recover from depression and make a successful comeback.
"It's an important win for us," Gianetti told Cyclingnews after celebrating Cobo's victory.
"Geox is a new sponsor and at the start of the year there were a lot of difficulties to overcome. We had a strong team, considering the palmares of riders like Sastre, Menchov. We'd hoped to do better than we did but that's sport. Fortunately the wheel always turns as we say."
"We're renewing Cobo's contract at the moment. He has spent all his career with us except for one year. We've just got to sit down and talk about things. He's part of our family."
Doubts about Geox in 2012
However, the future of the team appears unclear after the president of the Geox company Mario Moretti Polegato revealed he will decide whether to continue his sponsorship at the end of the season. Geox is also a sponsor of the Red Bull Formula 1 team that is dominating the motor racing season, spending more on being Sebastian Vettel's shoe sponsor than he does on the entire cycling team.
"It wasn't easy to predict we'd win but I was very hopeful," he told Gazzetta dello Sport journalist Ciro Scognamiglio in Monday's edition of the Italian sports newspaper.
"We built the cycling team on the same principals of our company: the experience of the 'old' and the strength of the young people we want to do well. Menchov and Sastre were willing to do their bit."
"We've decided to weigh things up at the end of the season, with extreme peace of mind. It was the first year, so it's also been also about gaining experience."
When asked if other teams such as Leopard Trek and Colnago-CSF had tried to convince Geox to sponsor them, Moretti Polegato said: "We're a global company and so it's natural that we were approached. But I just want to enjoy the success at the Vuelta for now. We all deserve it. We also won the team competition. It's not talked about a lot but it's important."